Search for Fossett Turns Up Other Planes

Search and rescue crews scouring the desert for adventurer Steve Fossett have not found his plane. But they have uncovered no fewer than six aircraft lost in earlier years.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The search for adventurer Steve Fossett is in its second week. Searchers say they're still optimistic, though they have yet to find any trace of the acclaimed pilot in a rough terrain around western Nevada. Still, they haven found the wrecks of six other small planes that until now had been undiscovered.

As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, that's been welcome news to those who have lost loved ones.

RICHARD GONZALES: The reports of six wreckages of small planes not belonging to Steve Fossett caught the attention of the family of William Ogle of Gainesville, Florida.

Prof. WILLIAM OGLE (Biomedical engineering, University of Florida): The first thing that occurred to me is just hope that it might be my dad's.

GONZALES: Ogle is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida. Back in August of 1964, his father - a former Marine Corps pilot - departed from an Oakland, California airport in a four-seat Cessna bound for a business trip in Reno, Nevada.

Prof. OGLE: He never got there. Part of the problem was there is no flight plan and it took two days before people started getting concerned. And at that point, the appropriate authorities were identified and a local search and rescue did air search for 60 hours.

GONZALES: But search teams didn't know which direction to look for Ogle's plane, so they confined their search to the area around the Oakland airport.

Prof. OGLE: And at that point, they didn't see any reason to continue the search. And that's all we knew.

GONZALES: Charles Ogle had been working on a major business deal when he disappeared. In his absence, Ogle's widow and children moved from suburban comfort to the welfare rolls. The mystery of what happened to Charles Ogle clung like a blanket to his then-4-year-old son, William.

Prof. OGLE: I can remember, first grade, looking out the windows of the classroom, and looking up in the sky. Some of my teachers were - Mr. Sullivan -he was complaining to my mom that, you know, I kept looking out the windows, looking for my dad's plane.

GONZALES: Now at the age of 47, William Ogle wonders whether the answer to the mystery of what happened to his father lies on the desert or mountains of western Nevada.

Prof. OGLE: I'm in limbo and I'm sitting here on the edge of hope.

GONZALES: And he could be waiting for sometime.

Major Cynthia Ryan is a spokeswoman for the Nevada Civil Air Patrol. She says efforts to examine any plane wreckage is time consuming.

Major CYNTHIA RYAN (Spokeswoman, Nevada Civil Air Patrol): What would be required is to get a crew in there that's in a very treacherous area. And they will come through the wreckage, see if they can find some sort of a serial number even on just to the engine part. And they can run that through manufacturers and find out who the owner was.

GONZALES: Ryan says at the moment, authorities don't have the resources to confirm whether one of the wreckages they have found is a plane belonging to Charles Ogle. And right now, the priority is the search for Steve Fossett.

But William Ogle says, as a scientist, he is trained to be patient. Yet, the 43-year-old mystery of what happened to his father stirs old emotions.

Prof. OGLE: When you have, you know, like your dad disappear, like this, you always have this feeling, you know, maybe he didn't, you know, he didn't care about us so he just left. And for me, at least, it will feel like, you know, he didn't just take off, an accident happened. And he would have been there.

GONZALES: William Ogle says he has been assured by Nevada officials they will eventually identify the six plane wreckages. But it will take time.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News.

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